How I Travel: Hotel Architect & Designer Jean-Michel Gathy
French-Belgian architect Jean-Michel Gathy is the self-proclaimed 'spoiled kid of the hotel industry'.
His firm, Denniston, is behind some of the most breathtaking hotels in the world—from the chic, earthy over-water villas at Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives to the formidable St Regis Lhasa in Tibet, to the charming oasis that is Chedi Muscat and Aman Venice.
A jet-setter with impeccable taste, we couldn't pass on the opportunity to speak with Jean-Michel about how he travels, including his favourite destinations and top tips for jet lag.
I travelled to the US for a well-deserved holiday with my family.
I’m traveling to Saudi Arabia for business.
What do you love the most about travelling?
I love the African bush and Kenya, Botswana and Namibia have some stunning safari camps. I love to visit countries that have soul, charisma and a strong social identity—no matter where you are, every country has something new to offer in terms of inspiration.
I would love to travel to Iceland to see its rugged landscapes, glaciers, rough seas, hot springs and volcanoes. I’d also like to visit the south of Chile and the peninsula of Kamchatka in Russia, which has extraordinary wildlife and endless forests. Collecting art is also an indulgence of mine, and I like to collect and invest in local artwork whilst on my travels.
Most memorable travel experience?
I was at the Four Seasons in Florence on my anniversary and my wife and I were having dinner on the roof. The GM came over and offered my wife a bouquet of flowers. It was so personal and impressive.
And the worst?
This is a tough one, although it would have to be when I went to the Maldives approximately ten years ago and it rained for two weeks in a row. I was at a very luxurious resort and it rained for two weeks; it was windy and stormy. What did I do? Well, I spent a lot of time reading, playing chess, monopoly, going to the gym, and playing ping-pong.
Three things you always travel with?
I always travel with a cashmere scarf for the plane and a sweater (I am a big cashmere fan). I also travel with my camera, a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, and I travel light. I try not to carry too much because I try to avoid checked baggage at the airport. I also travel with my roll of tracing paper and the latest sketches I have to prepare for the next project, and I design on the plane.
What do you normally read on the plane?
Magazines. I love to read magazines when I travel. When I arrive at the airport, I collect every type of magazine—design, golf, property, cars—I like to know about everything that's going on in the world. I never read books when travelling, only magazines.
See also: 10 Books Hong Kong Tatler Editors Are Reading Right Now
Aisle or window seat?
Your best travel tip?
When you book a hotel, always be explicit about what room you want: away from the service lift, great light in the morning, with a garden view or with a terrace. If you don’t ask, someone else will.
Any tips on overcoming jet lag?
When you arrive at the destination, try not to head straight for the hotel, but explore the great outdoors. Also, a good night’s rest on the first night is essential.
See also: How I Travel: Lucy Jackson Of Lightfoot Travel